California: Study Say Blacks Disproportionately Arrested For Minor Marijuana Crimes

From 2006 to 2008, African Americans were arrested for marijuana possession offenses in California’s 25 largest cities at at four, five, six, seven and even twelve times the rate of whites, according to a report released today by researchers at the Queens College, City University of New York and Shenandoah University in Virginia.

Among some of the California cities profiled:

* The City of Los Angeles, with ten percent of California’s population, arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites.

* San Diego, the second largest city in California, arrested blacks for marijuana possession at nearly six times the rate of whites.

* In Pasadena, blacks are 11% of the population but 49% of the people arrested for marijuana possession. Pasadena arrested blacks at twelve and a half times the rate of whites.

* In Sacramento, the state capitol, blacks are 14% of the city’s population but more than 51% of all the people arrested for possessing marijuana.

* San Jose, the third largest city in California, is only 2.9% African American. But San Jose arrested blacks for marijuana possession at more than five times the rate of whites. San Jose arrested 619 blacks per 100,000 blacks compared to 121 whites per 100,000 whites.

* The City of Torrance, with a population of 140,000, had the highest racial disparity of the 25 cities. Blacks are only 2% of the population but they made up almost 24% of the people arrested for marijuana possession. Torrance arrested blacks at over thirteen times the rate for whites.

These racially-biased marijuana arrests were a system-wide phenomenon, occurring in every county and nearly every police department in California,” the report states. “The substantial disparities in marijuana possession arrest rates of whites and blacks cannot be explained by their patterns of marijuana use. … U.S. government studies consistently find that young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than young whites.”

From 1990 through 2009, police departments in California made 850,000 criminal prosecutions for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and half a million marijuana possession prosecutions in the last ten years, the report found.

Today’s report is a follow up to a June 2010 study commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance which determined that from 2004 through 2008, in every one of the 25 largest counties in California, African Americans were arrested for marijuana possession at double or triple the rates of whites.

Full text of today’s study, “Arresting Blacks for Marijuana in California Possession — Arrests in 25 Cities, 2006-08,” is available online here.

75 thoughts

  1. This is the #1 reason to vote for Prop 19! Racism and slavery exist in 21st century America and it must stop.

    It is sad how a few CA medical patient ‘intellectuals’ want to vote ‘no’ because there are flaws (misunderstandings) with the Prop. The reason to vote ‘yes’ for Prop 19 regardless is to end these human rights violations NOW! Waiting for a better Prop to come along allows countless African Americans (and others) to be victimized in the meantime.

  2. What is crazy is there are so many professional blacks who have or even still smoke and know its not the problem just the laws around it! But because of how we are SUPPOSE to feel about it, no one says anything and just sits back collect there money and let the rest get thrown to the DOGS!

  3. and if you want confirmation look to new york city.

    no city in the world arrests more of its citizens for using mj than nyc. when i lived there many years ago, it was a progressive place. could toke comfortably in the park.

    9 of 10 arrested surprise surprise are brown skinned (mostly male). try and get a job with that on your record.

    whatever happened to that norml times square ad of a few months back?

  4. you don’t need a study to be able to tell this is the truth.. and its not just in California this is something that happens nationwide, any state that has “lenient” laws in regards to marijuana medical or even just “decriminalized” its just how it is… it sucks but its just how things are and honestly it doesn’t look like america is going to change or become more openly racially friendly which is really sad.

  5. No matter how vehemently the Federal government and their minions might try to deny that Prohibition 2.0 was implemented to target minorities, or that the War on Drugs was initiated to wage a legalistic war against minorities and anti-war groups, the cacophony of statistical evidence does not lie.

    This is a war waged against the civil rights, personal freedoms, and individual liberties of the American people themselves, based upon lies, official propaganda, and non-scientific psychobabble. That so few politicians of either “mainstream” political party are willing to stand up and be counted as being in opposition to this continuing national disgrace of public policy is testament to just how close to that Corporatist | Fascist Police State that the USA has come.

    President Obama comes off as being the Corporatist “house negro” that Malcolm X (R.I.P.) so frequently referred to. I don’t know which is worse, a Democratic administration that outright lies during their political campaigns, or their Republican opposition that proudly states that they are intent upon destroying 100+ years of progressivism.

    Both are inherently evil, and neither deserve to represent We the People. Considering the imminent destruction of representative democracy in this country, in favor of a fascistic Corporatist State, both political parties should be designated as “enemy combatants” and thrown into Gitmo.

  6. YES on Proposition 19

    “From 1990 through 2009, police departments in California made 850,000 criminal prosecutions for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and half a million marijuana possession prosecutions in the last ten years, the report found.”

    I Hope and Pray The Citizens of California Vote YES 19

    As for myself, stuck in the back hole of Florida, I vote for Lewis …

    Imagine a new Attorney General here in Florida

    Yes 19
    Yes Lewis

    If you don’t like the law then “CHANGE” It

  7. YES on Proposition 19

    “From 1990 through 2009, police departments in California made 850,000 criminal prosecutions for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and half a million marijuana possession prosecutions in the last ten years, the report found.”

    I Hope and Pray The Citizens of California Vote YES 19

    As for myself, stuck in the back hole of Florida, I vote for Lewis …

    Imagine a new Attorney General here in Florida

    Yes 19
    Yes Lewis

    If you don’t like the law then “CHANGE” It

  8. re: If you don’t like the law then “CHANGE” It

    YES 19

    Somewhere deep in my soul I “refuse to lower my head to cannabis prohibition

    YES 19

  9. Now I have said it from day one, this law on cannabis is a JIM CROW LAW! “These racially-biased marijuana arrests were a system-wide phenomenon, occurring in every county and nearly every police department in California,” ie in every state in these United States this Jim Crow Law been upheld and force down upon a free society, a society that has liberty and justice for all. I guess I should be glad this is how my government treats blacks in America, it beats the hell out of those days when the government lench fine Americans on a street lamp post. Have you for got? Have you no sense of American History? It is a history based in blood and injustice.
    Vote and don’t back down, Vote! Stop a criminal government, VOTE!

  10. If I could, I’d donate all my votes for the next twenty years to vote in favor of Prop. 19. But I don’t live in California, so it’s up to you Californians to do what’s right. Just set the ball rolling, and the rest of the country will come around. Marijuana could be legal from coast to coast within a generation.

  11. Please people if you can see this behavior as wrong then quit using their word, “Marijuana” it is a Jim Crow law term used against people not WHITE! It has been used against us over and over. Use the word HEMP or Cannabis, that is the name of the plant, let get back to it. Vote for it, show your support for those in CA who dare think outside the damm box, thank you for doing so. We, “The Rest Of The World”, pray that CA vote yes and send a trainwreck Washingtons way. Best thing Obama can do is clear the track and fix the long overdue injustice.
    I’ve been in this war since the first day it was declared and I have never seen the government employees more scared then they are right now. Give support to CA, go visit after the big win and spend your vacation money there as a way of thanking CA for getting out in front of this injustice and doings what so many want to do.

  12. I would love to donate to this cause but thanks to the economy all the politicians and lobyists made I have $11 for the next 3 weeks.

    This is the pain of someone who doesn’t break the law and sell the new apple pie of America.

  13. Racism has been a primary motivator of drug laws dating back to the first restrictions on marijuana use in this country. The figures given by the study are of no surprise to anyone except those who are ignorant of history, or what is going on around them everyday. END THE WARS(‘The Drug War’ and ‘The Race War’)! END PROHIBITION!

  14. I think all arrests are disproportionate for marijuana,it’s only a crime if it does harm. Yes on 19!

  15. Oh Snap,

    Why right there be the proof in the puddings now you be seeing what we has to been gonig true all thses year. Blacks oppresions by them cops for no the reasons aother than just because we haappens to be a differents in the color ha ha final noe you be seen the true….thank you NORML!!!

  16. I don’t think it’s because of flat-out police racism on an individual basis — it’s because of targeted enforcement. You have teams of cops doing jump-out frisks in poor black neighborhoods. If they did that in a white neighborhood in Orange County, the wrath of God (and high priced lawyers) would descend upon them. They say it’s necessary because of the violent crimes in those neighborhoods, but that’s not much consolation to the people who get screwed in the process just because they smoke a little herb.


    In January 1911 hearings were held on a federal antinarcotic law before the House Ways and Means Committee. The National Wholesale Druggists’ Association (NWDA) representative protested, in addition to other aspects of the proposed legislation, the inclusion of cannabis alongside opiates and cocaine. Charles A. West, chairman of the NWDA Legislative Committee, complained that “cannabis is not what may be called a habit-forming drug.”2(p. 50) Albert Plaut, representing the New York City pharmaceutical firm of Lehn & Fink, objected to including “insignificant articles, the habit-forming quality of which is more than doubtful.2 (p.75) In particular he objected to the inclusion of cannabis; he attributed its reputation more to literary fiction, such as the description of hashish in the Count of Monte Cristo, than to informed opinion. “Cannabis brought into this country,” Plaut explained, “is used almost altogether for the manufacture of corn cures and in veterinary practice. As a habit-forming drug its use is almost nil.2 (p. 77-78) When questioned as to whether cannabis might be taken by those whose regular supply of opiates or cocaine is restricted, Plaut responded that the effects of cannabis were so different from those of opiates and cocaine that he would not expect an addict to find cannabis attractive.2 (p. 77-78)

    Cannabis was not included.

    In 1919 the crucial Supreme Court decision outlawing addiction-maintenance for pleasure or comfort, led to national restrictions on physicians, druggists, and other outlets for drugs believed to be responsible, for America’s many addicts.

    in January 1929 Congress authored two narcotic farms to be operated by the Public earth Service largely for the treatment of addicted federal prisoners. The law specifically defined “habit-forming narcotic drug” to include “Indian Hemp” and made habitual cannabis users, along with opium addicts, eligible for treatment.13 Although there seems to have been almost no transfer of cannabis users to the two “farms,” later known as the Lexington and Fort Worth Hospitals, it is significant that congressional worry about cannabis continued after passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act and clearly was present before the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was established in 1930.

    During the depression, worked for an end to Mexican immigration as energetically as those with economic interests did so for social reasons, afraid that mixture with an “inferior race” was causing “race suicide.” Citizens anxious to preserve what they believed valuable in American life banded together into “Allied Patriotic Societies,” “Key Men of America,” or the group which united many of these associations, the “American Coalition” whose goal was to “Keep America American.” 18

    One of the prominent members of the American Coalition, C. M. Goethe of Sacramento, saw marihuana and the problem of Mexican migrants as closely connected (New York Times, Sept 15, 1935, section IV, p 9):
    “Marihuana, perhaps now the most insidious of our narcotics, is a direct by-product of unrestricted Mexican immigration. Easily grown, it has been asserted that it has recently been planted between rows in a California penitentiary garden. Mexican peddlers have been caught distributing sample marihuana cigarets to school children. Bills for our quota against Mexico have been blocked mysteriously in every Congress since the 1924 Quota Act. Our nation has more than enough laborers.”

    In 1934 a US Marshall in Tulsa, Okla, wrote to the FBN, describing marihuana as a most dangerous and crime causing drug which gave its users the feeling that they had “superman and superwoman” powers.19 Newspapers occasionally headlined the weed as a cause of horrible crimes. For example, in 1933 the New York Mirror presented an article in its Sunday supplement on “Loco Weed, Breeder of Madness and Crime.” That same year Dr. Walter Bromberg, a respected researcher, informed a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association that some authors had estimated the number of marihuana smokers in the southern states to be one out of four.20 Dr. Bromberg, who did not subscribe to the alarm over marihuana displayed by some writers, nevertheless told of its spread from the South to the large cities and to New York, “where its use is widespread.”20 (p. 307) He noted that marihuana’s inclusion in the Harrison Narcotic Act had been requested. Although denying that crimes were directly and simply caused by marihuana and asserting that it was something like alcohol in its effect, nevertheless, on the basis of good physiological and psychological studies of cannabis, he was persuaded that it was “a primary stimulus to the impulsive life with direct expression in the motor field.”20 (p. 328) Marihuana “releases inhibitions and restraints imposed by society and allows individuals to act out their drives openly,” and “acts as a sexual stimulant,” particularly to “overt homosexuals.”20 (p. 308)

    No federal regulatory law was enacted until 1937. (By 1931 regulations under the Food and Drug Act had limited the importation of cannabis except for medical purposes.)

    Apparently the decision to seek a federal law was made in 1935, since by January 1936 Anslinger was holding conferences on what course to take to accomplish that end. The FBN’s search for grounds on which to base a federal law was almost unsuccessful. It first claimed that only the treaty-making power of the federal government could sustain an anti-marihuana statute.

    “The State Department has tentatively agreed to this proposition, but before action is taken we shall have to dispose of certain phases of legitimate traffic; for instance, the drug trade still has a small medical need for marihuana, but has agreed to eliminate it entirely. The only place it is used extensively is by the veterinarian, and we can satisfy them by importing their medical needs.

    We must also satisfy the canary bird seed trade, and the Sherwin Williams Paint Company which uses hemp seed oil for drying purposes. We are now working with the Department of Commerce in finding substitutes for the legitimate trade, and after that is accomplished, the path will be cleared for the treaties and for federal law.”

    Tools for debate: U.S. federal government data on cannabis prohibition

  18. Im having a hard time with these studies…First, RAND reports that the majority of Drug Cartel income comes from Weed sales, then drops a report that it’s NOT the majority of their income…

    Survey after survey and poll after poll showed nothing but growing support for Prop 19, and then a new poll comes out saying that support dropped more than 10%…

    I’m not a conspiracy nut but I cant shake this feeling that either there are omissions, or straight alterations to data. It seems that the studies that are released help affirm the claims from the opponents to Prop 19, just when they need it too. Any error that would cause that much of a complete flip in data analysis would shut down all other studies, to make sure that the methods they used in their research are sound…

    Am I the only one out there with this crazy thought?

  19. Igor, the whole world is watching us here in Cali over Prop 19, and we’re gonna blow it. There is absolutely no campaign for Prop 19 here. Ive never seen billboards, heard ad’s on the radio, nothing. The opponents dont need to campaign, because its the public ignorance that keeps them alive, but yet they still have a stonger campaign against Prop 19. The California chamber of commerce has started radio ads spouting their nonsense about what the new law “could do” (not WOULD do). It’s so aggravating to hear business owners bitch about the fact that they can’t fire someone who’s high, regardless if it affects their ability to work. They live with the presumption that it’s not happening already. Or maybe they aren’t, and they are literally that malicious to pot smokers. Absolutely disgusting, either way.

  20. I’m not surprised to learn about Blacks being arrested more often. After all, my understanding is that keeping Blacks and Mexicans under control was the main reason marijuana was made illegal in the first place.

    Am I wrong?

    Obviously, this needs to stop – for everyone of every race! It’s an embarassment to all Freedom Loving Americans and of criminal nature for those caught up in this corrupt system.

  21. The sad truth is blacks are not as afraid of the cops as they should be. Its like they do not understand the hatred alot of police officers have for them. These law enforcement officers have been indoctinated with a belief that blacks are cockroaches and need to be eliminated. As a former correctional officer, I have seen this racist attitude exist alot. Look at what types of people are drawn to a profession of power and a feeling of importance, Redneck Bully Low IQ types.

  22. The present status quo wayward government has been a bully to our liberty and freedom for way too long. Do we let them bully us out of our God given freedoms and liberties and for what? Do you feel more of less protected by the present government? Does the present government provided and protect our infastructures with our tax dollars? Do you dread calling the police to help you? Should the government impose upon us with a crime if there has been no harm or violation of another’s Constitutional Rights, how can there be a crime without a harm?

  23. #28……Fawk that.! Black people do/should NOT be afraid of the police… one should. Sorry, dude. I’m just dumm I guess for believing in this crazy fantasy that would make cops helpers instead of HARASSERS.
    If the people are against an unjust law(prohibition); then it will only be a matter of time before the people turn against those enforcing the unjust law/laws…

    are my words not correct??

  24. And talking of harm, where is it in the powers of government to do harm to it’s people? I must of missed that part of the US Constitution they gave government, any government the power to lie and harm the public as a whole. This is what the Control Substance Act is! It is a lie told over and over. This cannabis plant has hurt no one in the 200 plusw years of this Nation. What other plant, elements of a plant can lay such claim? We have been taken to the clearers and then told it was for our own good. Screw what my government thinks is good, they thought hanging blacks folks was good just 30 years ago. Hell for sport the government thought it was good to shot indians and mormans too. When in the sam hell has this government acted in a way that was not harmful to it’s citizen population? Yep! It has been one long ass time since this government did for the people as the people wanted.
    How did we get to that day when we enjoy freedom and liberty?
    My government has harmed me, you and all our families, their time is at end and it is up to each and everyone of us to regain our liberty and freedom, vote, debate, but most importantly DO!
    Defy the law on cannabis, refuse to convict your brothers and sisters throughout the lands. Use Jury Nullification, teach it, practice it, change the law because you the citizens has the power to do so.
    United we stand strong and win, alone we are taken in the night one by one until they have won. Which is going to be people, are we sheep or free persons?

  25. just read a reasonable explanation for the wild swings in the polls.

    with the automated phone call polling system mj was the big winner. it’s easier to tell a machine than a stranger.

    makes sense that people wouldn’t be honest admitting supporting an “illegal substance” to an unknown polling person.

    prop 19 is gonna win!

  26. The drug war is a modern slavery method used by the ruling class to imprison and waste away minority groups. Cannabis prohibition is the most obvious example. Anybody knows prisons don’t help drug users at all. “Send him to prison for 2 years, he’ll learn a lesson.” What lesson does anybody in prison learn? How to be sneaky? How to be violent? Getting raped by a violent cell mate? How to be treated like an animal and be used as slave work property? Drugs are all over prison, everybody knows that. The drug war is an addiction that rulers have a hard time letting go.

  27. A Simple Request
    I do not live in California, so Prop 19 does not apply to me. However, Of californian’s I ask this :
    1. Please keep in you minds the Damage done not ONLY to California but to the rest of America from the Violent Gangs that Plaque’s our streets.

    2. To keep in mind We are also oppressed by government.

    3. To keep in mind the Horable Killings of thousands of Mexicans, that is still on going.

    4. To keep in mind our Econamy and what help that Prop 19 can give is better than Spending Money that we don’t have on a War that we can’t win.

    5. To keep in mind that in this Issue you DON”T stand alone.

    And Finally I ask you to remember that When you Go Vote on Nov. 2 That Our hopes and hearts go with you. If I was californian, I would Say “YES ON PROP 19”

    Go california Lead us into a Better way of Life.

  28. If we are going to arrest people for doing harm…how bout we start with congress and others in government. They have done plenty of harm to our country.

  29. @35

    as the opinion polls waffle, one thing becomes apparent

    good people are tired of the inflated government budgets

    the war on drugs is expensive

    Try living in Florida


    Send The Message

  30. It is all a question of economics. By approving proposition 19, California will lose much of its state funding. From a cost/benefit perspective, the state will have to determine if the tax revenue generated from marijuana, combined with the decreased cost in crimes related to the drug, will be worth the passing of the bill.

    [Paul Armentano responds: California has not lost one dime in federal funding since it approved medical marijuana in 1996 and it will not lose funding if voters approve Prop. 19.]

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